Where To Go Climbing: The Best Centres In London

Where To Go Climbing: The Best Centres In London

Red pins are major climbing centres; yellow pins are Better London centres; blue pins are other (smaller, alternative) walls.

We hope that this list provides a comprehensive look at the best climbing facilities in London, plus information on what is offered at each of them. Climbing centres differ in many ways but for the most part, indoor climbing is divided into three different types: bouldering, top-rope climbing and lead climbing. For newcomers to the sport, here is a brief definition of each:

  • Bouldering — A style of rock climbing, bouldering is rope-free climbing undertaken at a low height over crash pads so that falls do not result in serious injury. Routes are graded according to difficulty and little equipment is required, usually just climbing shoes and a chalk bag.
  • Top-rope climbing — This is the style most often seen at climbing walls. Climbers are harnessed and attached to a rope which passes through an anchor at the top of the wall and then back down to a partner at ground level. As the climber ascends the partner will pull the rope tight so the climber does not fall if they let go.
  • Lead climbing — For more experienced climbers, lead climbing presents a greater challenge as the climber is not anchored to the top of the wall. Instead, they progressively clip themselves into different points on the wall as they ascend it, with the partner below feeding out new rope as the climber scales higher and higher.
Bouldering at The Arch

The Arch Climbing Wall

Type? The Arch is a three-venue bouldering centre. The original 10,000 square feet bouldering wall opened at The Biscuit Factory in Bermondsey, but since then it has expanded with a second venue (a flagship with over 11,000 square feet) within the same Bermondsey complex, plus a further 11,000 square feet site in north London. Routes are graded from V0 (easiest) to V9 (hardest) with around 300-400 different routes to attempt at each venue. There are 200+ new routes set every week, so the regulars don’t get bored. There are also campus boards, rings, training areas and a project board where you can set your own routes. Cafes at each location provide snacks and hot drinks to see you on your merry way.

Where? Two centres in Bermondsey, SE16 4DG and one in Burnt Oak, HA8 5LD. Maps and directions here.

When? Bermondsey is open Mon-Fri 6.30am-10.30pm, weekends and Bank Holidays 10am-9pm. Burnt Oak is open Mon-Fri 10am-10pm, weekends and Bank Holidays 10am-9pm.

Registration? You have to register to go climbing at The Arch (registration is free). Experienced climbers can just turn up and register upon arrival while newbies must attend an Introduction Lesson first (covers the facilities, safety, rules, warming up and beginner climbing technique with an instructor). You can then turn up and climb any time you like.

Price? Introduction Lessons are £20 per person. A single adult peak-time ticket is £11 and at off peak (anytime before 4pm Mon-Fri) this goes down to £8.50. A booking of ten climbs is £85 and can be used at any time, while an unlimited monthly pass is £55, three-month pass is £140, six-month pass is £250 and an annual membership is £450. Concessions available.

Facilities? Massage and physiotherapy sessions, yoga and pilates classes, changing rooms, showers, toilets, a cafe, on-site shops, no on-site parking but there is parking on the surrounding streets. Lockers are free but do require your own padlock.

Kit-hire? Climbing shoes and chalk bags available to rent at £3 and £1.50 respectively, you can also buy your own at the on-site shop.

Special courses? Introduction Lessons, Improver Classes, Women-Only Classes, Technique Courses, 1-1 personal sessions, corporate events and team building.

Kids? Children between 8-12 must be accompanied by an adult at all times (max one child per supervising adult, make sure to read the T&Cs here), 12-15 year olds can climb with a letter of parental consent. The Arch does not cater for children’s parties or lessons.

Anything else? Two of The Arch venues are situated in The Biscuit Factory complex in Bermondsey, a collection of buildings that began in the Victorian age when the area first developed as a major centre for food production. Learn more about the history of the space here.

Get in touch: thebiscuit@archclimbingwall.com

Top ropes and lead climbs at The Castle

The Castle Climbing Centre

Type? The Castle is a giant of a climbing centre. It offers bouldering, top-rope climbing, lead climbing and abseiling across five different levels (it used to be four, but they excavated the basement levels to make two new climbing areas). The bouldering grades range from V0-V6 and routes are changed regularly — it even publishes its setting schedule in advance. The centre contains over 450 top-rope and lead climbing routes, ranging from grade 4 to 8a, although if you want to lead-climb you need to bring your own rope.

Where? Stoke Newington, N4 2HA. Map here.

When? Open Mon-Fri midday-10pm, weekends 9am-7pm, Bank Holidays 10am-10pm

Registration? Everyone wanting to climb at The Castle must complete a registration form (you can do this online beforehand), to declare whether you will be a supervised or unsupervised climber, and whether you will be rope climbing or bouldering only. Once registered, you can decide whether to climb on a pay-as-you-go basis, with pre-paid visits or take out a membership. New rope climbers can visit with a registered member to supervise them, but if you want to have a go at roped climbing unsupervised you'll need to attend one of the intoductory courses.

Price? Pay-as-you-go adult entry fees are £12.50 per visit. A pre-paid booking of 11 visits is £125 amd 20 visits is £210. An unlimited monthly membership is £67, quarterly is £146, six months is £260 and an annual pass is £475. One-day introductory courses range from £57-£75. Concessions available.

Facilities? On-site shop, lockers, showers, changing rooms, cafe, a lovely garden where food for the cafe is grown, a gym, meeting and training rooms, limited car parking.

Kit-hire? Climbing shoes and harnesses are available to rent for £2.50 each. A belay set is £2, while helmet, ground anchor and chalk bag are £1 each.

Special courses? Taster sessions and introductory courses (for beginners), improver courses, lead and multi-pitch climbing courses, private tuition, family sessions, auto belay introductions, private tuition, corporate events and team building and first-aid courses. Plus all the children's clubs.

Kids? The Castle is extremely child-friendly and offers a range of courses for young people including age-specific weekly climbing clubs, school holiday sessions, school groups and birthday parties. Children under 18 can climb but only if supervised by an experienced, roped climber (max. two novices per adult). If the adult is inexperienced, or bouldering only, then the child must book onto an introductory course in advance. Experienced 14-17 year olds may climb unsupervised once they’ve passed an Under 18 Assessment.

Anything else? It isn't really a castle, though it looks like one. The Castle is an old, grade II listed Victorian water pumping station that was converted and opened as a climbing centre to the public in 1995. More on its history here. It’s 45 metres at its tallest point and, if you wish, you can abseil down the main tower (it’s fun, we’ve tried it). Another fact — you can see the Emirates Stadium out of the windows at the top of some of the climbing walls.

Get in touch: info@castle-climbing.co.uk

HarroWall

VauxWall and HarroWall

Type? These new kids on the block have sprung up over the last few years and are already immensely popular. As the names suggest, the original VauxWall is in Vauxhall while the newer HarroWall is located in Harrow, both offering oodles of indoor bouldering. In fact, HarroWall is now the UK's largest bouldering centre. There you'll find an absolutely mammoth 40,000 square feet of climbing activities including hundreds of routes, an entire auto-belay wall, a 170m indoor cave and a routing roof. VauxWall is a more modest 500 square feet.

Where? Vauxhall, SW8 1SR. Map here. Harrow, HA1 4HX. Map here.

When? VauxWall is open Mon-Fri 6am-11pm and weekends 9am-9pm. HarroWall is open 10am-11pm and weekends 9am-9pm.

Registration? Anyone wishing to climb at one of the centres must pre-register, which can be done online before your visit. If you're an experienced climber that's likely all you'll need to do before attending for the first time and completing your registration in person. If you're a beginner however, you'll be prompted to book onto an Induction Session when you first visit to get you up to speed before letting you loose unsupervised. An auto-belay introduction course may also be necessary if you want to use this facility at HarroWall.

Price? The online registration is free, or £3 if you choose to register in person. This gives you access to both sites where entry prices are the same. The pay as you go price is £12.50 peak or £8.50 off peak (Mon-Fri 10am-4pm and 9-11pm, weekends 9-11am and 6-9pm), prepaid cards cost £50 for five, £90 for ten or £170 for 20 sessions. Unlimited monthly passes cost £70/£50 for a month or £190/£130 for three months. Induction Sessions cost £20.

Facilities? VauxWall is much smaller but still offers an on-site shop, showers, changing rooms, lockers, a small gym with extra conditioning equipment plus a cafe selling hot drinks and snacks. At HarroWall you'll find all the above (but bigger) plus a soft play area for under 3s, meeting rooms and limited free parking too.

Special courses? Alongside the introductions to bouldering, there's also intermediate and advanced courses at VauxWall. At HarroWall there's the added auto-belay introduction and 1:1 tuition.

Kids? Under 18s are welcome at both facilities although they must be supervised by a registered, competent adult (max two children per adult). Those aged 14-17 may use the centre unsupervised as long as they complete an Induction Plus course, or can demonstrate they have significant bouldering experience already. Junior classes are available for ages 8+. There's even more fun for kids at HarroWall where the Krazy Kong facility offers 12 accessible and fun climbing challenges created with children in mind. There's also a hard play area for 3-8 year olds and a soft play for under 3s.

Kit-hire? Shoe hire will cost you £3.50. Chalk bags are £2 to hire.

Anything else? There's actually a third site near Kennington in South London, known as VauxEast, which opened in early 2018. It contains around 500 square metres of climbing surface, circuit boards and a MoonBoard, but there's hardly any information about it online. You can find it here though.

Get in touch: info@vauxwallclimbing.co.uk

Click to explore inside Mile End Climbing Wall.

Mile End Climbing Wall

Type? Mile End Climbing Wall offers bouldering, top-rope climbing and lead climbing, with around 16,000 square feet of climbing surface – routesetting is taken very seriously. Open since 1986, the wall is fully maintained by the registered charity Development Through Challenge, which promotes personal development in young people through physical activity. Mile End Climbing Wall also houses the ‘Monkey House’, where bouldering routes cross over the ceiling and require plenty of hanging around.

Where? Mile End, E3 5BE. Map here.

When? Open Mon-Fri 10am-9.30pm, Sat & Sun 10am-6pm

Registration? You have to register to climb unsupervised at Mile End Climbing Wall, which costs £5. New climbers have a few options though. If you want to jump right in then go for Turn Up and Try where you simply pay the registration and entry fee and then get an induction tour before being left to explore the non-rope climbing areas yourself. The Taster Session gives you an hour and a half of supervised climbing in a small group with the opportunity to try both bouldering and top-rope climbing. Lastly, the Beginners' Course includes six hours of tuition, where instructors take you through everything you need to know to become an independent and unsupervised top-rope climber.

Price? The introductory courses are £14.50 for Turn Up and Try (registration plus entry fee), £20 for the Taster Session and £60 for the Beginners' Course. A single peak-time ticket is £9.50, at off peak times (Mon-Fri before 4pm) this goes down to £7.50, and under 18s cost £6.20. A monthly pass is £50, an annual pass is £375 or ten anytime climbs cost £75. Concessions available.

Facilities? Lockers, toilets, changing rooms, showers, tea and coffee, on-site shop, parking available.

Kit-hire? Climbing shoes available to rent for £3 (free for under 18s), harnesses are £2.50 each, karabiner and belay devices are £1.50 each and top ropes are free.

Special courses? Lots! All Beginners' Courses and Taster Sessions, advanced and improvers courses for bouldering, roped climbing courses including leading and multi-pitch sport climbing, women's bouldering sessions, instructor training, mountain leader training, NICAS Levels 1-4, first aid, strength and conditioning training, outdoor classes and private groups.

Kids? There is no lower age limit to children climbing at Mile End under the supervision of a registered adult (max two children per adult), although very small children can only climb in the Teaching Room. The wall also offers National Indoor Climbing Award Scheme (NICAS) sessions for young people, which is a UK-wide scheme with a five-step syllabus to accredit individual climbing achievement for candidates aged seven and upwards. Birthday parties also welcomed.

Anything else? Mile End Climbing Wall opened in 1989 and is located inside an old pipe engineering works at Mile End Park. It is often said to be the oldest dedicated climbing wall in the country.

Get in touch: enquiries@mileendwall.org.uk

The Climbing Hangar

The Climbing Hangar

Type? The Climbing Hangar (formerly named Urban Ascent) is a dedicated bouldering centre with roughly 100 different problems that are updated every single week. If that doesn't keep you busy enough, there's also a dedicated training area complete with hang boards, campus boards and weights. They also have the gold standard of bouldering training equipment: a MoonBoard. Grades range from V0-V6 and there’s a viewing gallery with sofas overlooking the climbing areas so you can watch others during your breaks.

Where? Parsons Green, SW6 4HH. Map here.

When? Open Mon/Weds 6.30am-10pm, Tues/Thurs/Fri 11am-10pm and weekends 9am-8pm.

Registration? Visitors must pre-register to use The Climbing Hangar. Beginners must attend a 30 minute Taster Session before they can scamper unsupervised, which covers the basic safety features of climbing, some techniques plus a tour of the centre. The first three climbs once you're up to speed are discounted (£7.50 each) after which you can decide whether to become a full-time member and pay as you go, take out monthly membership or purchase pre-paid climbs.

Price? Becoming a member costs £10 annually and the Taster Sessions for newbies cost £20. Once you're up and running the prices are £10 for a single climb (£7.50 at off-peak times - Mon-Thurs before 5pm and all day Friday), £49 for an unlimited monthly pass (£35 off peak) or a booking of ten visits for £90.

Facilities? Lockers (you'll need to bring a padlock), showers, changing rooms, cafe, shop behind reception, climber-specific yoga classes, no parking available other than local pay and display.

Kit-hire? Climbing shoes and chalk bags available to hire for £3 or £1.50 respectively.

Special courses? V1-3 coaching sessions for beginners, instructor training, strength and conditioning training, teen sessions and kids clubs.

Kids? The Climbing Hangar caters for children in two ways: after-school rock clubs for ages 7+ which take place both after school during term time and are divided into two age groups, as well as a pay-as-you-go rock club on Saturday mornings. Both are very popular so advance booking is recommended. If it's supervised climbing you're after then that's fine too but just like the adults, newcomers to the sport must book into a Family Taster Session. Once completed, you're free to climb with a ratio of two children for every supervising adult. Children aged 14-17 can climb unsupervised if they've completed a competency assessment and have a signed waiver by their parents. Under 14s cannot climb after 6pm.  

Anything else? When the wall first opened in 2012, it was the training space for British bouldering champion, Shauna Coxsey. She even worked as a coach at the wall when kids clubs were first introduced. Six years on their relationship is still going strong, with the wall both sponsoring and supporting her efforts to reach the coveted title of world number one.

Get in touch: info@theclimbinghangar.com

Bouldering at Stronghold

Stronghold Climbing Centre

Type? Another newbie to the scene, Stronghold Climbing Centre is light and bright with excellent facilities. It's vast, and all about the bouldering. There are hundreds of different routes to try out and two areas of the centre are reset every week (keep track via their online setting calendar) if you're on the hunt for fresh routes to tackle. Professional guest-setters cover a wide variety of grades so all levels are catered for, and although it's quite a traditional climbing environment, there is an excellent circuit board (London's largest, apparently) inside the dedicated conditioning room.

Where? Tottenham Hale, N17 9LJ. Map here.

When? Open Mon-Weds 8.30am-10pm, Thurs/Fri midday-10pm, Sat 9am-7pm and Sun 9am-9pm.

Registration? All climbers at Stronghold must be registered. Pre-register online to save some time and make sure to watch the online Induction video too (especially important for anyone with less than six months' experience). Those new to the sport will also require an Induction session at the centre to learn the technique and safety basics before they can climb unsupervised.

Price? There are three ways to pay here: single entry, bundles and memberships. Single entry cost £10 or £7.50 off peak (weekdays before 4pm and after 9pm). The bundles are priced at five entries for £40 or ten for £75, or opt for a membership which offer unlimited entries and comes in at £50 for a month, £125 for three months, £220 for six months or £420 for annual access. Induction session costs £20. Concessions available.

Facilities? Showers, lockers (bring your own padlock), yoga classes, gym, cafe, shop, limited on-site parking.

Kit-hire? Included in supervised courses, but if climbing on your own then shoes can be hired for £3 and chalk bags for £1.50.

Special courses? Induction sessions, Bouldering ABC for beginners, adult improvers and women-only improvers (these are free once you have paid for entry to the centre), personalised training plans.

Kids? Under 18s are welcome to climb at Stronghold and there's an excellent children's area upstairs specifically for them to learn the basics and grow in confidence. All children must be accompanied by an experienced, registered adult (two juniors per adult if they're aged 6+, or just one per adult if they're under 6). The only exception is for experienced climbers aged between 14-17 who can climb independently once they've passed the Unsupervised Junior Assessment. The Weekend and holiday-time Stronghold Rockers Club is for 6-17 year olds and it's possible to have a birthday party here too.

Anything else? Stronghold aims to be not just a climbing centre, but a social space where members of the local community can come together, relax and socialise. It's a noble mission, and one they are strongly supporting with a booze license, so members can sit down with a beer and put the world to rights after a climbing session.

Get in touch: info@thestrongholduk.com

Roped climbing at The Reach

The Reach

Type? At The Reach you can boulder on around 650 square metres of bouldering surface or hit the ropes with around 750 square metres of roped climbing, ranging from grades 4-8a. Try out one of the 80 top-rope routes up to 11 metres high, one of the 50 lead climbs, or have a go at the free-standing 4 metre-high boulder on the ground floor.

Where? Woolwich, SE18 5NR. Map here.

When? Open Mon-Fri 10am-10pm, weekends 10am-7pm

Registration? To climb unsupervised at The Reach, visitors need to be registered as either a bouldering-only member or a full member which means you can also climb in the roped sections. Experienced climbers can just turn up and join (£5 one-off fee), but beginners must attend a Basic Skills course depending on which type of climbing they'd like to focus on.

Price? Taster Sessions last for 90 minutes and are £20. The Basic Skills course is £45 (great value) and takes places across six hours and two days. Once the £5 membership fee is paid, entry for a single visit is £10 or £8 off peak (weekdays before 4pm), under 18s cost £6. A booking of ten visits is £80, a monthly pass is £52, three months is £135, six months is £210 and an annual pass is £385. Concessions available.

Facilities? Lockers, showers, toilets, changing rooms, on-site shop, cafe and free parking available.

Kit-hire? Climbing shoes can be rented for £3, a harness is £2.50, belay devices and karabiners are £1.50 and a chalk bag is £1.

Special courses? Taster Session, Basic Skills course, technique improvement courses, NICAS Levels 1-4, lead climbing courses, private tuition, team building/corporate sessions.

Kids? Under 18s are welcome at The Reach but only under the supervision of an instructor or experienced member (max two kids per adult). The Reach, like Mile End, offers National Indoor Climbing Award Scheme (NICAS) sessions for young people, plus a young climbers' club for ages 7-17 during weekends and school holidays. Parties can also be booked for 7-17 year olds.

Anything else? The Reach first opened in early 2010 and is situated right by the River Thames. It sells itself as ‘South London’s largest climbing wall’ and refers to its walls by name, such as: The Slab (an unusual 11 metre high wall at a 30 degree angle), Razzle Dazzle (inspired by Colorado Mountains) and The Overhang (a lead wall with two angled facets at 35 degrees and 25 degrees).

Get in touch: info@thereach.org.uk

Hackney Wick Boulder Project

Hackney Wick Boulder Project

Type? Opened in 2017, Hackney Wick Boulder Project is a local bouldering wall right by the River Lea. It's not massive, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in exceptionally well thought-out routes (that verge on the challenging rather than simple), friendly staff and relaxed atmosphere. Four walls of bouldering are up for grabs here, with at least one wall updated every week. It's also brilliantly located, just a minute's walk from Hackney Wick station.

Where? Hackney, E9 5LN. Map here.

When? Open Mon, Weds and Fri 11.30am-10pm, Tues and Thurs 7.15am-10pm, weekends and Bank Holidays 10am-7pm.

Registration? All climbers new to Hackney Wick, regardless of experience, must watch a short induction video and fill out a registration form (this can be done online beforehand to save time). If you're an experienced climber then you'll be free to hit the walls, or if you're new an hour-long Taster Session will be the next step to get you familiar with the joys of bouldering. Once you're ready to climb unsupervised you have the choice between pay-as-you-go entries, pre-paid climbs, standard monthly membership offering unlimited climbs, or an enhanced monthly membership which includes guest passes, weekly coaching sessions and free kit hire all in the price.

Price? Pay-as-you-go climbs cost £10 or £7.50 off peak (before 4pm on weekdays). Buy five climbs in advance for £40, or ten climbs for £75. Enjoy standard monthly membership for £45, or upgrade to Better Bouldering Monthly for £65 a month for a whole host of added benefits (some mentioned above). Taster Sessions cost a very reasonable £12.50.

Facilities? Changing facilities, toilets, small cafe with coffee and hot snacks, bouldering accessories available to purchase.

Kit-hire? Hire out climbing shoes for £3, a chalk bag for £1, or both together for £3.50.

Special courses? Alongside the Taster Sessions, climbers can also get stuck into Climbing MOTs for performance enhancement, 1:1 sessions, lattice assessment and personalised training plans. There are drop-in Boulder Socials on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays too.

Kids? As long as you're over eight years old, you're welcome to climb at Hackney Wick Boulder Project. Kids aged 8-11 years can climb under the supervision of a registered adult once a supervision form has been completed (one child per adult - parental permission needed if it's not your own child). Up to two 12-17 year olds can climb under the supervision of a registered adult, again with the required permission and form completed. Experienced 14-15 year olds can climb unsupervised, subject to a parental visit and completed consent form beforehand. And finally, 16-17 year olds can use the wall in the same way as adults as long as a parental consent form has been filled out in advance.

Anything else? There's a lovely little courtyard area out the back to catch some sun (or freeze off that sweat). They serve great coffee in-house at Hackney Wick Boulder Project, but if it's substantial sustenance you're after it's worth remembering that members to the wall also get 10% off at Grow kitchen and bar opposite, which has canal-side seating.

Get in touch: info@hackneywickboulder.co.uk

Westway Climbing Centre, photo by by Oli Scarff at Getty Images

Westway Climbing Centre

Type? There's something for everyone at Westway with 200 square metres of bouldering wall with up to 150 boulder problems, 365 climbing routes and 110 roped lines too that reach up to 13.5m high. Routes are changed every month (there's a pretty impressive schedule that breaks it all down for you) and bouldering problems go up to a massive V10 grade. It also has a campus board, gymnastic rings, traverse wall and training rooms.

Where? White City, W10 6RP. Map here.

When? Open Mon, Tues, Weds and Fri 9.30am-10pm, Thursday 8am-10pm and weekends 8am-8pm.

Registration? New climbers must complete a Beginners' Climbing Course before they can climb unsupervised (although a registered competent adult climber can supervise up to two novice adult climbers at a time). Experienced climbers can register and start climbing straight away, either on a casual pay-as-you-go basis or with monthly climbing passes.

Price? Taster courses cost £22 and the six-hour Beginners' Climbing Course is £99. A single peak-time ticket is £11 and at off peak times (weeksdays 7am-5pm) this goes down to £8.50. A monthly pass is £57, annual is £450 and concessions are available.

Facilities? As part of a large sports centre, the Westway Climbing Centre offers a cafe, on-site shop, toilets, lockers, showers, changing rooms, underground paid car park available.

Kit-hire? Climbing shoes, harness, belay devices and karabiner hire available for £3 each.

Special courses? As well as the Beginners' courses, there's also the option of private tuition, techniques masterclass, lead climbing course, physical conditioning, movement and balance, skills courses. There's also a range of social sessions such as women's climbing and Bouldercise (a fusion of bouldering and other workout exercises) that are included in your membership.

Kids? There's lots for families at Westway. For serious climbers there are National Indoor Climbing Award Scheme (NICAS) sessions that take them through a structured syllabus, plus after-school climbing, birthday parties, family climbing sessions, junior tasters and teenage sessions. All children must be supervised (max two children per adult) although 14-17 year olds can climb unsupervised once they've passed the Junior Climbing Test.

Anything else? Westway Sports Centre is located under the A40 Westway flyover, near to the Westfield shopping centre. If you want a break from climbing then you can keep your pulse racing with a variety of other available activities such as tennis, football, swimming, fives, cricket, netball, basketball and general fitness in the gym.

Get in touch: westwayclimbing@everyoneactive.com

Brixton Climbing Centre, courtesy of Better

Better (various)

Type? What used to be known as Climb London is now know as Better London: the London arm of the UK-wide not for profit that manages over 258 leisure facilities around the UK. There are eight different sites in the capital, all based inside sports centres and gyms. They are a mix of top rope climbing and bouldering – some have lead climbing walls too, although they are much smaller than the dedicated centres. What exactly is on offer varies from centre to centre so please check in advance.

Where? Brixton, Swiss Cottage, Crystal Palace, Hendon, Hackney, Eltham, Walthamstow, Barking.

When? Each centre has different opening times, although most are open until 9pm on weekdays.

Registration? With so many centres around the country, registration can get a little confusing. But essentially there are three options. The first is to 'Pay & Play', where you pay an annual membership fee and then pay-as-you-go, but with up to 30% off non-member prices. The next option is to take out a 'Better HF' membership which you pay monthly or annually and that allows you unlimited access to all Better centres within your local area (plus all the facilities inside). Or if you're a nationwide roamer, take the third choice and sign up to a 'Better HF UK' membership so you can visit any centre around the country. You do not have to become a member to climb, but you will be paying full price each time you visit. As with the other centres, experienced climbers can get started right away but beginners must complete a safety test before they can climb unsupervised.

Price?: All sites offer different facilities (some are huge while others are just a single bouldering wall) and charge slightly differently so it's worth contacting your local to see exactly what's on offer. But let's take Swiss Cottage Leisure Centre as an example: having paid the annual membership fee of £10.50 you'd be entitled to 'Pay & Play' visits at £8.60 a pop. Or you could sign up for a month at £45, or you could pre-pay for ten entries at £80. Juniors and concessions pay less.

Facilities? All sites offer toilets and changing facilities but vary beyond that so check before you go. If you want the traditional cafe, shop, rental equipment options that you find at the larger centres, then Swiss Cottage and Crystal Palace are your best bets.

Kids? Junior climbers are welcome at all centres although they must be accompanied by a Better adult member. Parties and school groups are catered for at most sites, plus there are junior climbing clubs at all locations other than Hackney.

Get in touch: Contact page

Vertical Chill in Ellis Brigham, Covent Garden © Red Letter Days

Want more?

Yep, that's not all. Here are some fantastic centres situated a little further out of town, plus a few smaller walls where you can play monkey for the day without feeling overwhelmed by a giant climbing centre.

White Spider, Surbiton
Lucky, lucky south west London. White Spider is an incredible climbing facility with over 380 routes on roped lines (grades 3 through to 8b with a 50/50 split on top rope and lead climbing) as well as over 240 boulder problems (grades V0-V8). New routes are added every week — no small feat when you consider there's around 2,000 square metres of wall here to play with. A bouldering cave and stalactite roof are fun bonus features,  plus a Kids Castle for younger climbers to clamber.

Craggy Island 2, Sutton
There are two Craggy Island's: the first is in Guildford just outside the M25, and this second venue which sits in Sutton. Bouldering is the name of the game here and there are four rooms on offer: The Rock Room where you'll find most of the adults hanging around on the 70+ boulder routes; The Cave Room full of tight squeezes, chambers and passageways; The Competition Room for serious climbers with another 70+ problems; and The Party Room for... parties, obviously. Very family friendly.

Clip 'N Climb Chelsea
Perfect for kids, families or anyone who wants all the fun of climbing without having to worry so much about the technique, Clip 'N Climb Chelsea is a theme-based roped climbing experience. What exactly does that mean? It means that visitors can take on fun climbing challenges like 'The Skyscraper', 'Dark Tower' and 'Stairway to Heaven'. It's a novel climbing experience rather than one for real enthusiasts, and its theme park-esque surroundings will probably be a hit with kids parties and school groups (although there are adult only evenings too). No experience is necessary and the 90 minute sessions are £19.50 for adults and £17.50 for children.

Fairlop Waters Boulder Park, Ilford
Over in far east London, Ilford boasts the UK's largest boulder park featuring nine outdoor boulders, individually constructed using sprayed and carved concrete. Fairlop Waters itself is a sprawling country park complete with lake, golf course, fishing, driving range and walking routes. The boulders can be found close to the lake and make for a fun stop-off during a day exploring the park. It's popular with kids but there are some expert routes for more advanced climbers, see the PDF guide here.

Vertical Chill, Covent Garden (currently closed for maintenance)
For a climbing experience with a difference, try Vertical Chill — an 8m ice wall tucked away at the back of the Ellis Brigham store in Covent Garden. The temperature is kept at a balmy -5°C to -7°C, and budding John Snow's are provided with the necessary outer layers, axes, crampons, harnesses, helmets, eye protection and gloves. Beginners are welcome and the cost is £50 for a one-to-one session with all equipment and training. This drop to £35 if you just need supervision/belaying rather than one-to-one training, and drops again to £25 is you can bring your own equipment.

Jags Sports Club, Dulwich
A very friendly sports centre with all sorts of facilities, there's much to get stuck into beyond the climbing wall at Jags in Dulwich. But let's start there first. There are two bouldering walls, plus a third 9m high wall made for roped climbing. It's not huge but it's a bonus for anyone wanting access to a leisure facility with the occasional climb thrown in for good measure. Once you're finished wall-clambering, try your hand at the gym, swimming pool, tennis courts, squash court, sports hall or astroturf pitch.

Glass Mill Leisure Centre, Lewisham
Adults and juniors are both welcome to clamber on the 8.5m climbing wall at Glass Mill Leisure Centre in Lewisham. All abilities welcome and expert instructors are on hand to give you a leg up if you need it. Prices range from £6.50-£12.65 with discounts for Lewisham residents.

Salmon Youth Centre, Bermondsey
Salmon Youth Centre in Bermondsey (round the corner from The Arch) has an outdoor climbing wall that 7-19 year olds can master as part of the Cliffhanger Climbing Club. The centre also offers activities such as table tennis, boxing, football and trampolining and it only costs 50p per session once you become a member. If you've spotted a climbing wall while travelling into London Bridge on a National Rail train, then this is it.

The bonkers-looking Clip 'N Climb Chelsea

And finally...

If you don't like to set your sights too high, then we might have found the perfect climbing wall for you. Possibly the smallest climbing wall in London, Fortune Street Park's children's playground in the City of London boasts a two-foot high wall with a 45 degree incline, complete with eight varying holds on which to challenge your scrambling abilities. Beginners welcome, no charges, sadly no kit hire or showers available, but Giddy Up Coffee is directly opposite for when you work up a thirst.

Fortune Street Park's 'climbing wall'.

Last Updated 20 August 2018